Grenade terrorist admits to other attacks

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JERUSALEM — The Palestinian who carried out Monday's grenade attack in Beersheva has confessed to killing a Hebron rabbi and throwing another grenade in Hebron on Yom Kippur.

Salam Rajab Sarsour, a 29-year-old Hebron resident and father of five, admitted during his interrogation that he was also responsible for other attacks: the August stabbing death of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan in the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron and the grenade attack on Israeli troops patrolling Hebron on Yom Kippur.

Israeli security forces are investigating whether Sarsour was behind any other terrorist incidents.

On Monday, Sarsour threw two hand grenades during the morning rush hour at Beersheva's central bus station. Bystanders pounced on Sarsour, holding him down until police arrived.

Sixty-six people were wounded, two of them seriously and one critically. About two dozen of the injured were soldiers.

Avigdor Kahalani, Israel's public security minister, said Sarsour is a low-ranking Hamas member and didn't work alone in the Beersheva attack. Palestinian security officials maintained this week that Sarsour had acted on his own.

The military wing of Hamas issued a statement Tuesday, claiming responsibility for the Beersheva attack.

Aharon Domb, a Jewish settler leader, claimed that Israeli security forces had asked their Palestinian counterparts several months ago to detain Sarsour for suspected Hamas activities. Domb maintained that the Palestinian Authority failed even to question Sarsour.

The grenade attack in the Negev Desert city highlighted the leading stumbling block at the Mideast peace summit thousands of miles away at the Wye Plantation.

Within hours of Monday's attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement from the summit in eastern Maryland that he would continue with the talks despite the attack.

But Israeli negotiators hammered away at the security issue, saying the grenade attack underscored what they had been maintaining for months — that there could be no agreement without a Palestinian commitment to crack down on terror.

One Palestinian official at the Wye Plantation summit called the Israeli stance "cheap blackmail."

Israeli officials, who during the past several weeks thwarted what they said were planned Hamas terrorist bombings, recently lifted a closure that had been imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot.

Meanwhile, Palestinian security officials in the self-rule areas said their investigation indicated that Sarsour was an agent for Israeli security and that he had carried out this week's grenade attack to dispel any doubts his Hamas comrades may have had about his loyalties.

Monday's attack came at 7:45 a.m. when Sarsour walked up to the No. 14 bus stop just behind the central bus station and tossed a grenade at a group of military recruits.

"I heard an explosion and then fell on my legs. I was in total shock. Everyone screamed and cried," said Dana Cohen, a soldier who suffered shrapnel wounds.

The attacker then ran toward the northern corner of the bus station and tossed another grenade, which caused little damage and fewer injuries. At that moment, he ran into a bus and was knocked onto the ground.

The bus driver jumped out and, together with a construction worker, overpowered the assailant.

The terror attack shut down the central bus station for two hours as security forces searched for bombs or more grenades.

One security official said the grenade was an old fashioned "pineapple" type, which is less deadly than modern fragmentation grenades.

A 47-year-old man, who suffered critical injuries, had his chest ripped open by the blast and his liver was torn apart. He was in serious but stable condition by midweek.

About two dozen of the injured were still in the hospital on Wednesday.